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Ron DeSantis Should Revoke Disney World’s Privileges

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has been getting a lot of heat in recent weeks over the state’s controversial ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill (HB 1557). Disney joined the fray on Monday, the same day DeSantis signed the bill into law, with a statement condemning the legislation.

But while the controversy surrounding the bill is what’s been making headlines, a new controversy is brewing specifically with respect to Disney, and it centers on the legal structure surrounding Walt Disney World.

On Wednesday, Florida State Rep. Spencer Roach tweeted that he has been discussing with fellow legislators the possibility of repealing the 1967 Reedy Creek Improvement Act, which allows Disney World to be effectively self-governing and exempts the jurisdiction from many state laws, specifically regarding land use. “If Disney wants to embrace woke ideology, “Roach said, “it seems fitting that they should be regulated by Orange County.”

DeSantis himself weighed in on the proposed repeal during a press conference yesterday.

“What I would say as a matter of first principle is I don’t support special privileges in law just because a company is powerful and they’ve been able to wield a lot of power,” DeSantis said. “I think what has happened is there’s a lot of these special privileges that are not justifiable, but because Disney had held so much sway, they were able to sustain a lot of special treatment over the years.”

“I think in this particular case with Disney,” he continued, “I just don’t think you have very many people in the legislature anymore who are going to be able to defend a lot of what has been done over many years to really have them almost govern themselves in some of these things. That was probably never appropriate to start, but is certainly not appropriate now at this point.”

DeSantis is being tactful with his language, but the threat is clear. If Disney wants to push back on his agenda, he’s not afraid to revoke their legal privileges.

The laws surrounding the Reedy Creek Improvement District (i.e. Disney World’s land) are actually quite fascinating. The 1967 act creating the district basically gave it the powers of an incorporated city, and also gave it immunity from any current or future county or state land-use laws.

“Without those powers,” Richard Foglesong explains in his book Married to the Mouse, “they would be forced to submit to building inspections and planning and zoning controls by Orange and Osceola counties.” With those powers, however, they could make magic happen.

Foglesong continues:

“Integrating the company’s government and development arms made possible an efficient system of building regulation. Under Potter, the Reedy Creek government developed a floor building code with its own department to supervise the code…The arrangement allowed building officials to work directly with the theme park designers…Commenting on this arrangement, Potter said ‘It saved us from a lot of problems because when a design came here we knew that it was a competent design.’ The standards were stringent, such as requiring a fire sprinkler in every room, an uncommon safety feature in the 1960s. Yet, the performance standards were also flexible.”

In short, the fact that the Reedy Creek government had so much autonomy was a major key to Disney World’s success. The flexibility allowed them to create plans that prioritized visitor experience, because they didn’t have to focus on appeasing lawmakers and rival special interest groups.

So, on the one hand, these legal privileges have been tremendously beneficial, and the success of Disney World is a testament to their utility. But the other factor here, which DeSantis is drawing attention to, is that this is basically cronyism. Disney World was given an unfair legal advantage over its competitors, one that it continues to enjoy to this day.

This presents us with a dilemma. How can we preserve the benefits of self-governing districts without the cronyism that so often goes along with them?

The answer, in a word, is decentralization. Rather than removing the exemption from Disney World, the “privileges” should be extended to Disney’s competitors. Every jurisdiction in the state should be as self-governing as the Reedy Creek Improvement District. In other words, the land use laws should be scrapped altogether.

Now, some may predict that chaos and disaster would ensue if these regulations were suddenly dropped across the state. But that’s highly improbable. Look at Disney World. It certainly hasn’t suffered for lack of these restrictions. In fact, we can almost think of Disney World as a little experiment in deregulation. Lo and behold, the experiment has been a great success. Why, then, should we not expand the scope of this freedom far and wide, seeing as it has proven so beneficial?

To sum up, Ron DeSantis is right to call out the “special privileges in law” that give big players an unfair advantage, and it’s encouraging that he sees fair competition as “a matter of first principle.” But if we’re going to address cronyism, we need to do it the right way, by scrapping the laws that make it possible in the first place. For those who believe in decentralization, deregulation, and free markets, this is a great opportunity to put these principles into practice.

This article was adapted from an issue of the FEE Daily email newsletter. Click here to sign up and get free-market news and analysis like this in your inbox every weekday.

Content syndicated from Fee.org (FEE) under Creative Commons license.

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One Comment

  1. WARNING!!!

    Be Careful!… there is evil hidden in here. Foglesong says:
    “The answer, in a word, is decentralization. Rather than removing the exemption from Disney World, the “privileges” should be extended to Disney’s competitors. Every jurisdiction in the state should be as self-governing as the Reedy Creek Improvement District.”

    He is hiding fascism (e.g. the power Disney has been granted to act as government) behind a false idea of decentralization. Applying the same false principles, that enable Disney to be fascist, to other businesses, doesn’t fix anything, but creates a massive fascist state. The abuses under this unconstitutional allowances will magnify exponentially if every corporation is allowed to govern according to their own best interest, who seek after profit at the expense of those who buy from them. This is the overwhelming example of businesses that have been enabled to receive favoritism and exceptions to government regulations created to protect people from business that just wants to make more money, even at the expense of people’s lives. That is why the government has these regulations. And companies will do what is best for their bottom line, even if it means taking shortcuts, using dangerous substances, abusing their powers to govern visitor’s human rights, etc. They have no separations of powers, because they are not acting under the constitution, but under their own ideologies, which are not subject to the people’s will and consent.

    And even if Disney acted well under their fascist privileges, that doesn’t mean most other would too. But we all know what Disney being allowed to fascistically act as government has done, and it is not a recipe that has turned out well. Now, their bellies filled with power think they can molest your children and force it on even the rest of the state. This is a sad, yet powerful example of why our government leaders have made huge mistakes, and misused their authority to offer unconstitutional rights to corporations. No business has any right or any right to privilege or exemption for acting as any kind of government.

    This sad example is mirrored in university campuses across the nation, which have been given these same governmental powers from the globalists in Washington and state governments. And the same results of corruption, abuse of power, abuse of human rights, and defilations of constitutional law have occurred since they were made fascist universities. The Right cannot even go to schools such as these anymore, without being assaulted, harrassed, abused, and failed, all for their constitutional right to believe as they want, or identify as conservative. But are we surprised that fascism leads to Hitler-Nazi style results?

    We shouldn’t be. The real question is, why has everyone ignored the growing fascism in America? When the globalists in Washington began their COVID scamdemic of civil and human rights abuses and other abuses of power, they acted, almost in every case, directly in line with the Nazi playbook. From mandates and bullying to killings and propaganda. Forcing you to submit, destroying your livelihood if you don’t. Even to mass murder of senior citizens, children, and everything in-between. indoctrination of children… the list goes one and on. Everyone keeps calling them the Left though… I cant figure it out. They arent Left. They are Right. The Left of communism is socialism. The Right of communism is fascism. Why doesnt anyone understand this? Oh, right… because nobody remembers history.

    Please, please, please…. for God’s sakes! Please expose fascism. Everyone goes around calling them the “Left”. Because the fascists took over the leftist democrats. But the Left isn’t in power. They made sure the Left didn’t gain power. They nixed Bernie sanders, multiple times. And AOC and her gang are merely mouthpieces, except when they call for the fascists’ desires. The real leaders of this nation are fascists, and their fascist overlords (i..e. Soros, Schwab, etc.) These are Nazis. Fascists. Both Soros and Schwab are Nazis. And this foglesong wants to fool you into accepting it and giving them more power. Pay close attention to his words, his reasonings, and you will see other discrepancies, how he is spinning things subtly and artfully to push for mass acceptance of fascism. This is not accidental. He is using exceedingly devious arts to sway minds toward the very thing threating America and Liberty today. Once they have that power, the corporation, controlled by fascists, will take your rights away, just like the Universities. Denounce fascism. Left, Right or anything in-between. And denounce the Leftist socialists too, but know who the enemy lording over you is, and it isn’t really the Left.

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